Cocktail Friday: Remember the Maine

While traveling in Las Vegas last week, I had an opportunity to revisit my favorite advice about Las Vegas: whenever possible, get off the Strip. In this case, we led a pilgrimage to Herbs & Rye, likely my second favorite cocktail bar in town and one of my top 10 anywhere. It was near the end of a long week so I didn’t play my usual game of “stump the bartender” and try to find something off the menu. And I didn’t need to, because smack in the middle of the first page was this classic.

The Remember the Maine, in addition to recalling one of the earliest and most notorious episodes of yellow journalism, is a delightful cocktail. What on paper appears to be a minor variation on the rye Manhattan tastes like an entirely new drink thanks to the combination of the sweetness of the cherry liqueur (Herbs & Rye and I both use Cherry Heering) and the bracing absinthe (I used Herbsaint).

And the drink has a wonderful backstory. Coming from Charles H. Baker’s 1939 book A Gentleman’s Companion is this description of the drink:

REMEMBER the MAINE, a Hazy Memory of a Night in Havana during the Unpleasantnesses of 1933, when Each Swallow Was Punctuated with Bombs Going off on the Prado, or the Sound of 3″ Shells Being Fired at the Hotel NACIONAL, then Haven for Certain Anti-Revolutionary Officers.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

Cocktail Sunday: The Vanderbilt

It’s back. This Cocktail Sunday post leaves the familiar world of whiskey and gin behind and weaves its way over to brandy. Which seems fitting given that this cocktail was designed for one of the wealthiest men in America, Cornelius Vanderbilt.

Vanderbilt wouldn’t have been drinking any cut rate brandy in his cocktail; he would have used VSOP Cognac, and I recommend (following the advice of David Wondrich) that you make the same substitution in any classic cocktail calling for brandy. Life is too short to do otherwise.

The big question in this cocktail appears to be the proportions. The first written recipe I’ve found for it, 1922’s Cocktails and How to Mix Them, calls for 1:1 brandy to cherry liqueur, which seems likely to yield something way too sweet. The Savoy’s Harry Craddock in 1930 dialed it back to a 3:1 ratio, which seems just about right.

One curious note about the name: the 1922 source says it was named for Col. Cornelius Vanderbilt, “who was drowned on the Lusitania during the War.” But the Vanderbilt on the Lusitania was Alfred Vanderbilt, and there was no “Colonel Vanderbilt” alive then. So: poetic license.

It’s grilling season, and for some reason I had extra homemade pickles that wouldn’t fit in the jar. Turns out they’re wonderful with the Vanderbilt. Who’d have guessed?

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

Cocktail Friday: The Astor

It’s that time again! This week we’re looking at a pre-Prohibition cocktail, the Astor, which uses one of my favorite cocktail bar ingredients, Swedish Punch (or Punsch).

Difford’s Guide points us to The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Book for the origin of the recipe, which credits the old Astor House or the Astor Hotel for the original cocktail. If the first is true, the Astor is truly a pre-Prohibition cocktail, since the Astor House was in decline by the 1870s; the Hotel Astor came later, opening in 1904.

So much for the name. The only irregular ingredient in the drink is the Swedish Punsch, which is a compound of arrack, sugar and water. I’ve always thought of arrack as being roughly synonymous with rum, but that’s not quite right: Wikipedia says it may be “made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain (e.g. red rice) or fruit, depending upon the country of origin.” Whatever the origin of the stuff that goes into Swedish Punsch, the resulting flavor is oddly fruity in a can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it sort of way, and the Astor is a nice start-of-the-evening sort of drink as a result.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

Cocktails roundup

A few cocktail related things that have persisted in my open tabs for a while:

A Drink With My Brother: A great blog about exploring cocktails complete with cocktail origin stories, tasting notes, personal history and more.

Aviation Gin: The Aviation Cocktail. Since the proper recipe for this isn’t found in my various apps, I’ve been keeping this tab open for a while. (I make it with Plymouth or Old Tom gin, though—shhhh.)

12 Bottle Bar: Saratoga Cocktail. Enjoy one and prepare to go horse racing. Just don’t place any bets.

Cocktail Friday: Midwinters 1951 recipes

1951-spectator-32-33

I’m still working my way through the February 1951 Virginia Spectator, which has some interesting treasures beyond the Pogo-related content we wrote about yesterday. In particular, here’s a set of cocktail recommendations for Midwinters drinking, proving that straight bourbon and beer didn’t always prevail (though certainly “Mad Men” style sexism did).

In fact, as one might expect from the mid-century period, there’s no bourbon in any of these cocktails, or any dark liquor at all (aside from a little rum). None of these cocktails is fancy, but they’re mostly true to their models—with the possible exception of the fruit salad on the Zombie. Enjoy!

Martini

  • 1 part French Vermouth
  • 4 parts Dry Gin

Stir with cracked ice, strain and serve with stuffed olive.

Zombie:

  • 3/4 oz lime juice
  • 3/4 oz pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp. syrup
  • 1 oz white rum
  • 1 oz gold rum
  • 1 oz Jamaica rum
  • 1/2 oz demerara rum
  • 1/2 oz apricot liqueur

Shake violently, strain into 14 oz zombie glass, 1/4 filled with ice. Float splash of demerara on top. Spike 1 green cherry, 1 small pineapple stick, 1 red cherry on a toothpick, insert into drink, decorate with mint sprig, dust with powdered sugar.

Absinthe Drip

Pour a jigger of Absinthe into a drip glass, then place a cube of sugar over the drop hole in the upper section, pack with cracked ice, and pour cold water to fill the dripper. When all the water has dripped through you’re ready to deteriorate.

Daiquiri

  • Juice 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 oz rum

Shake well with cracked ice and strain.

Champagne Cocktail

  • 1 cube sugar
  • champagne
  • 1 dash angostura bitters

Place sugar in glass and saturate with bitters. Pour chilled champagne over and serve without stirring.

Cocktail Friday: the Chauncey 

Welcome to Cocktail Friday! Today’s cocktail is a relic called The Chauncey.

First, a note: how do I pick the cocktails to feature on Cocktail Friday? Sometimes it’s a cocktail I’ve known for a while and just haven’t got round to featuring. Sometimes it’s something I’ve tried in my travels.

And sometimes I’ve added something to my bar and I’ve gone looking for a cocktail to feature it. That’s this week’s cocktail, The Chauncey. It’s a great example (if not a classic per se) of pre-Prohibition cocktails’ tendency to break the rules and combine liquors that we would never dream of combining today, like rye and gin. For good measure, it adds red vermouth, brandy, and orange bitters, which round out the flavor profile and add up to something unusually complex and good.

Aside: Bernard DeVoto, author of the cocktail classic The Hour, would have hated The Chauncey. In addition to adding something to gin besides dry vermouth, he hated mixed drinks made with rye or bourbon (“the Manhattan is an offence against piety”), non-Angostura bitters (“all others are condiments for a tea-shoppe cookbook”) and—even worse—orange bitters (“Orange bitters make a good astringent for the face. Never put them into anything that is to be drunk”). Very odd for a man who fondly remembered drinking at the Knickerbocker, no bastion of drink purity, in its heyday! So drink this with pride, and a certain defiance.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

img_6632

Cocktail Friday: The Farmer’s Daughter

img_6592

This week’s Cocktail Friday post is a day late, but better late than never. I want to talk about three things today: this cocktail, applejack, and recipe sources.

The Farmer’s Daughter also goes by the name of the Honeymoon, and a fine cocktail for an autumn evening it is, with the apple playing nicely against the Curaçao (not blue Curaçao) and the sweetness alloyed by the lemon. It’s what the doctor ordered and a lovely way to use applejack.

Speaking of which: what is applejack anyway? Time was, you wouldn’t have had to ask that question. Because it was easy to make from cider, it was a hugely popular colonial beverage and was made throughout the colonies, though Laird & Company, the oldest licensed distillery in the United States, was the main source for years. Their applejack was so well known, George Washington is said to have asked Robert Laird for the recipe. (Ironically, while it was originally distilled in New Jersey, they now source the apples and make the product right in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.)

This brings us to the last point: sources. Most days you’ll see me post recipes from a variety of sources, but I often find my way to a cocktail recipe through one of a few iPhone apps. This one was indexed in Martin’s New and Improved Index of Cocktails and Mixed Drinks, a fantastic app that not only has thousands of recipes but also tells you which of them you can make with the stuff in your bar. The recipe also pointed to one of my favorite non-digital sources of cocktail lore, Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, pictured above. I won’t say it’s the most essential cocktail book you’ll ever own, but for sheer pleasure of reading and thoroughness of research it’s well worth it.

As always, if you want to try the recipe, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

new-note

Cocktail Friday: the false origin of the Martini

The Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square, early 20th century and 2015
The Knickerbocker Hotel in Times Square, early 20th century and 2015, courtesy MuseumHack.org

I can’t escape cocktails, and cocktail history. Even when I’m traveling for work, they find me. So it is that I find myself staying in a hotel in New York that was once one of the epicenters of pre-Prohibition cocktail culture.

The Knickerbocker Hotel was completed by John Jacob Astor IV, after a development project on land he owned failed. Opening in 1906, it was a destination for after-theatre dining, with decor by Maxfield Parrish (whose Old King Cole mural created for the hotel bar is now at the St. Regis in the King Cole Bar). The reputation of the hotel was largely built on its food and drink, and its social connections; Astor was a bon vivant who was fleeing negative press surrounding the pregnancy of his second (18-year-old) wife when he died in the sinking of the Titanic. (He is said to have remarked, “I asked for ice in my drink, but this is ridiculous.”)

The hotel bartender, one Martini de Arma de Taggia, was said to have created the martini in 1911; mixing dry gin and vermouth, the drink was said to have caught on when it was favored by John D. Rockefeller. Unfortunately for picturesque history, that tale is almost certainly false; John D. Rockefeller was a teetotaler, and the Martini existed well before 1911.

The most likely actual origin for the Martini is in the drink called the Martinez, supposedly invented either in Martinez, California or in San Francisco for a miner who had struck it lucky; it was first documented in 1887. By 1888, the drink first called the Martinez was already being called the Martini. Though the version in Harry Johnson’s New & Improved Illustrated Bartender’s Manual uses red vermouth rather than dry, and adds Boker’s bitters (a little like modern Angostura), gum syrup and an optional dash of curaçao or absinthe, it’s still gin and vermouth at its roots. The first version using dry gin that I’ve found is the 1909 Dry Martini (II) in Applegreen’s Bar Book—still two years prior to the Knickerbocker’s claim.

Whatever the truth of its connection to the Martini, the hotel today contributes to modern cocktail culture with the St. Cloud rooftop bar. I hope to gather impressions there sometime.

I don’t claim to have anything definitive on “how to make the best martini,” but if you want to try its precursor, here’s the Highball recipe card. Enjoy!

martinez-created-with-highball

Cocktail Friday: Frank of America

img_6545

For today’s Cocktail Friday, we’re taking a look at one of my favorite drink categories: cocktails that riff on whiskey plus herbal flavors. There are at least two major families, the Manhattan (rye or bourbon and vermouth plus bitters) and the Boulevardier (rye or bourbon and vermouth plus Campari).

The combination of the fiery and sweet in bourbon or rye set up nicely against the bitterness and herbal characteristics of bitters or amari (the general category in which Campari fits). The nice thing is that there are literally dozens of kinds of bitters and possibly hundreds of kinds of amari out there, and most of them are pretty different from each other because they each use proprietary blends of herbs and spices. So there are lots of ways you can make unique (if subtly different) drinks that follow this general recipe.

Such is today’s cocktail, the Frank of America. Published in the New York Times by Robert Simonson, the cocktail originated in The Bennett in New York City and is named after the bar director’s boyfriend, named Frank, who works at Bank of America. It calls for rye, Byrrh (a slightly more bitter vermouth analog), Amaro Abano (a strongly herbal, slightly peppery amaro), Angostura bitters, and maple syrup, with an orange twist. I didn’t have Amaro Abano so I substituted Averna, which is slightly less herbal and more spicy; I used bonded Rittenhouse Rye for the whiskey component. The result was a little sweet but amazingly complex and herbal. Apparently the original uses a spiced maple syrup; that might address the sweetness. But it’s definitely worth a drink if you have this stuff in your cupboard.

Or experiment with other amari, vermouth or vermouth-like drinks, and whiskeys. There’s a lot of directions that a little experiment can take you.

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

frankofamerica

Cocktail Friday: The Interpol

Today’s cocktail was inspired by a coworker who had it in Vegas. He was able to give me the ingredient list but not proportions; I had to work it out by trial and error.

The Interpol builds on several rich traditions: gin cocktails featuring amari (e.g. the Negroni, with Campari) and traditional cocktails that substitute an amaro for some or all the vermouth, for instance. This one builds an alternative to a martini by replacing the dry vermouth with Cardamaro, a cardoon (artichoke) based amaro that adds a woody, herbal flavor. (You might remember it from my Woodsy Owl).

I had to play with the proportions and am not convinced that I got it quite right, but I really liked this version. There’s an alternative formulation at Kindred Cocktails that I also want to try, but I think the simple syrup has to be 86’d—the gin is already sweet enough.

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

The Interpol, created with Highball.

Cocktail Friday: Tonic and Bitters

When I posted a note about today’s drink on a private cocktails discussion, the reaction was swift: “sounds delicious, but not as delicious as alcohol.”

Yes, this is a non-alcoholic drink. But we’re staring down the barrel of a week of 90+ degree days and having something cool but satisfyingly complex sounds pretty good to me right now. And the proportions for combining something as simple as tonic and bitters turned out to be surprisingly tricky to get right. (The addition of lime is a non-obvious, but delightful, balance. Also for this drink, if you think you’re putting too much bitters in, you probably haven’t added enough.)

As always, here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

IMG_6277

Cocktail Friday: Wallis Blue

This Friday’s cocktail is another one from the Esquire Drink Book. This one, the Wallis Blue, was supposedly fashioned by the Duke of Windsor himself in honor of his bride-to-be, the American socialite Wallis Simpson, by mixing a version of a sidecar and adding blue vegetable dye to match the color of her eyes.

As a Facebook friend of mine would say, #ewgrossbarf.

But the cocktail is delicious. The Duke (if it was he) was astute in swapping out brandy for gin. I skipped the sugared rim of the original (see link above) but you can absolutely do it if desired. I also substituted creme de violette, which you should have for Aviations anyway, for the blue food coloring.

Here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

wallis blue

 

 

Cocktail Friday: Kentucky Corpse Reviver

Kentucky Corpse Reviver, with frog
Kentucky Corpse Reviver, with frog

For the second entry in Cocktail Friday, I turn to bourbon, but with a twist. One of those “any excuse to party” websites declared Wednesday National Bourbon Day, and I decided to celebrate with a drink I had never had before, which is a twist on a completely different drink: the Kentucky Corpse Reviver.

There are a number of drinks with the name “corpse reviver,” which are mostly unrelated to each other and to this drink. The theme, as Wikipedia dryly notes, is “hair of the dog” hangover cures, but I can’t imagine anyone drinking these in the morning. Wikipedia gives the great Harry Craddock credit for the two better known recipes, based on cognac and gin, but also points to a mention of a cocktail called a Corpse-Reviver in Punch in 1861, meaning that the concept is ancient even if the drink is modern.

In concept, the Kentucky Corpse Reviver is a straightforward adaptation of the justly famous Corpse Reviver #2, substituting bourbon for gin and omitting the absinthe. In practice, the addition of both bourbon and the mint garnish make this an entirely different, and remarkable, drink. But proceed with caution: as with the original, “four of these taken in swift succession will unrevive the corpse again.”

Here’s the Highball recipe card, if you plan to try it out. Enjoy!

IMG_6136

Cocktail Friday: The Bairn

esquiredrinkbook

Today’s post comes courtesy of the Esquire Drink Book, a mid-century masterpiece of cocktail lore. It’s not just comprehensive but also wittily written and illustrated, and full of odd little throwaway recipes here and there.

I’ve been reading through it for a few weeks and am starting to collect cocktails to try. One that I investigated early on and that’s stayed with me is the Bairn, which as its name suggests is a Scotch-based cocktail. This blends the smokiness of Scotch with a solid dose of orange from both the Cointreau and the bitters. It’s a great introduction to the book and is an unfussy Friday afternoon sort of cocktail, which if your Fridays are anything like mine is just the right sort of thing to try.

I’m experimenting with a new-to-me app called Highball to document and share cocktail recipes; it’s nice because importing the image below into your version of the app will automatically add the recipe to your recipe book. Try it out and let me know what you think.

IMG_5989